How Jottings Can Help your Child plus an Author Interview

I recently read an article in The Reading Teacher titled, Jottings: An Approach to Guided Reading in the Elementary Classroom (March/April 2018) written by Jennifer A Knight and Hilary A Justesen that immediately caught my eye.

As a parent and a speech language pathologist, I am very interested in discovering new ways to encourage critical thinking for both my children and the clients that I work with on my caseload. I immediately loved the idea of Jotting because it was so visual, which can benefit so many children who are both typical and have special needs. Being a visual learner myself, I love finding additional ways for other learners on how to use different approaches to meet literacy goals.

What is Jotting? According to the authors, Jotting “involves writing quick notes, notations, and page numbers that allows readers to refer back to their reading quickly and move toward engaging in meaningful conversations about the books they are reading.” The authors wanted to find an approach that encouraged children to expand their critical thinking skills and to move teachers away from questions that require “little to no in-depth processing or deeper thinking.” Jottings can help “move students away from this type of thinking” and “help students learn to not only ask good questions but also discover how to approach a more open ended critical type o of thinking while reading.” After reading the article, I decided to try this at home. My daughter loved creating the symbols herself for the Jottings, which included main idea, vocabulary and things she liked about the article. Since she created the symbols herself, they became meaningful and therefore were recalled easier by her than if I had created the symbols. However, I can see in a classroom why the teachers would choose the symbols so that all of the Jottings are uniform and consistent. After reading the authors responses below, I also started using Jottings myself during read-alouds at mealtime It helped me be able to refer back to specific ideas when we were done reading the article or picture book. This strategy was also an excellent model in how use Jottings since it’s a learned skill for children to begin using.

To assess instructions on how to read the full article on The Reading Teacher, click here.

Both of these authors are seasoned educators that are passionate about educating children. After reading this thorough article, I had some questions about using Jotting at home. Thank you Jennifer and Hilary for answering my questions:

1. I loved your suggestions about having the student create their own symbols for Jotting. For a teacher, would you have the class decide on specific symbols to use or would these jottings be individualized for each student?
It can go both ways. As a teacher we have specific ones to start with to guide the students. For example, when we first teach the students to jot, we have two or three that we model and show them how to do it (e.g., interesting point, question, and page number). We demonstrate how to make the jottings during a read aloud. Then as time moves on and the students are reading more and more on their own, the jottings start to evolve to help students communicate their understanding better. For example, when we started the students came up with the hashtag for vocabulary words.
2. How many jottings would you suggest starting with at home?
It depends on the age of the reader at home. If you have a student in the early elementary grades, you don’t want to have so many jottings that it becomes overwhelming. If your child is in K-3 grade we suggest having jottings that will help them begin to expand their thinking and ability to talk about the text. For example, favorite parts, questions, predictions, characters, and vocabulary words. You can always add more as the child become more comfortable and confident with reading and jotting. If your child is in the upper elementary or higher, I would start with similar jottings as the early grades but anticipate that the child will begin to add their own jotting symbols as they read more and more. Many times the jottings will represent skills and strategies that your child is learning at school. For example, if your child is learning about figurative language they may decide to have a jotting specifically to identify that skill.
3. How might you modify this strategy at home for parents and caregivers?
The only real modification that would need to happen at home would be to make sure parents and caregivers are also using the jottings as they read together with their children. You may find that it is a more natural technique that can be easily adapted to a home setting. We would still encourage parents to have some type of chart or paper with the jottings for everyone to reference.
4. Would you modify this strategy for children with dyslexia? Also, have you noticed benefits for using Jotting for children with dyslexia?
We would suggest decreasing the amount of jottings for students with dyslexia or if you are reading together, decreasing the amount of reading to help them focus on their understanding. One approach that has been beneficial for many students is to listen to the text being read over reading it all on their own. It allows the students to use their thinking for content instead of decoding. It is often difficult for students with dyslexia to write full summaries and write-ups of what they have read. Jottings allow students with dyslexia to write short jots and ideas to help them when they talk with their peers. There is not the cognitive load of trying to remember what and how to write the ideas. Jotting free up students with dyslexia to allow their creativity and comprehension to become the focus. Freeing them to express their understanding of the text.
Knight, Jennifer A., and Hilary A. Justesen. “Jottings: An Approach to Guiding Reading in the Elementary School Classroom.” The Reading Teacher, vol. 71, no. No.5, March-April 2018, pp. 601–604.,



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